It’s easy to get stuck in a gardening rut. I realized this morning that I’d fallen into several ruts. It was time to drag myself out, shake things up, and rethink my daily schedule.
Are You Stuck in a Gardening Rut?
The Urban Dictionary defines being stuck in a rut as remaining in the same negative situation in life. I don’t know that my particular gardening rut was a negative situation. I know that it wasn’t productive, but then again, not everything in a garden is productive, as in bearing fruit, in every season.
My gardening rituals and habits have sustained me for many years now. Many of these habits I developed simply due to circumstances: weeding on Saturday mornings, watering in the evenings. Weeding on Saturdays was simply because I worked all week and could only get outside on Saturdays, and watering? Well, it was easier to water at night, in the cool of the evening, then it was at other times. Besides, I told myself, evening watering meant that the water wouldn’t evaporate as quickly.
I kept these habits even though by June, my garden is over run with weeds, and on hot, dry days my thirsty vegetables may need not just one but two bouts with the garden hose before their thirst is quenched.
Many of my gardening habits were acquired back on Long Island, New York, where I learned how to tend flowers and vegetables from my father, my sister, my next door neighbor. But the climate on Long Island, the soil, the season, everything is so very different from Virginia.
Even my space is different. The entire backyard of my childhood home is about the size of 1/10th of my perennial garden. Sizes in the countryside are deceptive. It’s not until you feel your weary, aching muscles from trundling wheelbarrows of soil, sand or stone across that expanse do you realize, This is the same distance as walking from my house to Kim’s when I was a kid. Kim lived many, many houses away, let me assure you.
When I moved to Virginia and entered my new life as a freelance writer and consultant, I brought with me all of those work habits I’d cultivated over a decade and a half commuting to demanding jobs. At my desk by 8 a.m., lunch at noon, a solid end to the day at 4 p.m. or 5.
It never occurred to me that when you are a freelancer, nobody cares whether or not you are working on their project at 8 in the morning or 8 at night…as long as you complete it by the deadline, it’s fine. Yet I was still churning away at my desk on nice days, even if it meant I could never make a dent in the garden tasks I longed to tackle. Worse, when blue skies beckoned, I felt resentful that I was stuck inside.
But being stuck inside was of my own making. Nobody was making the rules except me.
Breaking Out of My Rut: New Schedule
I finally realized on Saturday just how much my old gardening ruts no longer served me. It was 1 p.m., and Hubby and I were raking up mulch on the southern side of our house. Every three years or so, we pull up all the old mulch, spread it on the lawn, and replace it with fresh cypress mulch.
It’s not so bad to work on that side of the house on a cool day, but on a hot, sunny, 70 degree day, with no shade in sight, it’s brutal. The area gets to be so hot that the air sometimes shimmers where it bounces off the foundation. I started to get dizzy and actually sat down on the bench on my shady front porch with a glass of ice water to cool off.
My husband came by to check on me. “Are you okay?”
“It’s too hot today.”
“That side of the house is really hot in the afternoon.”
“It would be better in the evening.” A sudden thought occurred to me. “Why don’t we work on this tomorrow evening instead of trying to finish it all now?”
It was like a light bulb, or maybe a super nova because of the heat, dawned on me. Why not indeed? What did I normally do a 7 p.m., anyway? Read a book until 8 p.m. when we watched Netflix and then went to bed. Surely that’s something that could be rescheduled, no?
And so with that one small change in my gardening rut, suddenly everything else fell into place. For two evenings, we’ve worked in the cool evening shade and accomplished more than struggling through the hot midday sun. This morning, instead of heading right to my desk to work, I spent an hour in the garden, weeding. I was still ready for my 10 a.m. telephone meeting, accomplished all of my writing assignments today, and even tackled a “rush” assignment for a client….all without missing out on anything.
Sometimes you need to break out of your ruts and habits in order to find a rhythm that makes sense for you. I finally realized today that I’ve been following old patterns in many ways for far too long. Like water running through the garden from a downspout, it’s carved a rut that seems permanent but can easily be corrected.
If you’re wedded to your gardening ruts, maybe it’s time for a chance. Plant impatiens instead of begonias in the glazed pots this year. Hang fuchsia instead of ferns from the porch. Shake it up a bit. Weed in the morning before your meetings. Who knows where it might lead you?
Happy gardening. Keep growing!
Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.